NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--This was a very exhausting election season in Los Angeles, particularly in my part of Northeast LA, which includes both the highly contested City Council District 1 and Congressional District 34, vacated by Rep. Becerra. We had one election in each of the four months of March, April, May and June. That's two primaries and two runoffs. Out of curiosity, in January I started saving all the campaign literature mailed to my household, with the intention of weighing it at the end. I allow for the possibility that some mail was thrown into the garbage, but it wouldn't have been very much that was lost. I even rescued some flyers that my wife had angrily torn up.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Los Angeles is many years, and in some cases decades, behind the key U.S. Western Cities in planning for its future, but as a result of the pressure placed on the City Council and Mayor during the Measure S campaign, city officials promised to dust off plans that last took a serious look at LA's Infrastructure Element in 1968 and last took a serious look at LA's Public Parks Element in the 1970s.
15 CANDLES—(Editor’s Note: It has been 15 years since Los Angeles certified its first neighborhood council … Wilmington. Former and present neighborhood council leaders have been invited to provide their perspective on LA’s NCs, what difference they’ve made if any and what their future holds.) It was 1999, City Hall was perceived as becoming alien, insular, exclusionary, and non-responsive to regional issues, only to serve their own interests and lacking real tangible outreach or civic engagement.
At the dawn of the Succession Movement, voters approved a City Charter that established the Neighborhood Council System and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (the Dept) “to promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs” and in May 2001, the City adopted the “Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils (The Plan). This effort would finally empower NC’s to have Advisory Capacity decision-making influence while connecting residents to their local, regional, and city depts. on community-based issues – a real voice in the democratic process.
In the beginning, emotions ran high, participants scurried to become involved, outreach to local residents was at a fever-pitch, angry citizens arguing over historical boundary, grasping NC mandates, and the definition of advisory capacity leadership.
Now 15 years later with 97 NC’s and counting, they have taken their position as Neighborhood City Halls that have become alien, insular, exclusionary, not representative of their regions or communities only to serve their own individual interests lacking real tangible outreach or civic engagement. And to think it only took 15 years, 100’s of thousands of tax-payer dollars, and a further erosion of engagement and empowerment only to create another level of bureaucracy mandated by City Charter.
There is only one difference – there is no city agency that can enforce, mandate or hold NC’s or their boards from actions, decisions, or exclusionary practices accountable. When was the last time you received a local NC newsletter, announcement or notice in your mailbox or at your front door?
Are you being engaged or empowered to participate? Do you see change? Do you feel connected to City Hall?
(Bradley is a citizen advocate and was the founder of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council.)